A racial slur led one student to body-slam and punch another earlier this year at a school in Rock Hill, court testimony showed.
The incident happened April 11 outside South Pointe High school. The defendant, 16, pleaded guilty Tuesday in York County Family Court to assault and battery.
It is unclear if the defendant will serve any time in juvenile detention. An evaluation will be done in the coming weeks by South Carolina juvenile justice officials.
York County Family Court Judge Tony Jones will decide whether to accept a recommendation of probation from state juvenile justice officials, or to impose a harsher sentence.
Jones said in court that there is “no place in society” for racial slurs. He said the defendant was provoked by the racial epithet.
Jones then told the defendant that the language “did not justify the attack.” The defendant, who is larger in stature, punched the prone victim, lying on the ground after the body slam.
“You used excessive force,” Jones told the defendant in court. “It is the second attack that really bothers me... The injuries could have been far worse. You could have ended up in the penitentiary for this.”
The Herald is not naming the defendant or the victim because both are juveniles and the case is being handled in Family Court.
There was a $5 debt between the two students that led to the confrontation, testimony showed.
The victim, who is white, in text messages and social media directed the racial slur toward the defendant, who is black, said 16th Circuit Deputy Public Defender Stacey Coleman, the defendant’s lawyer.
The defendant then beat up the victim after the two agreed to fight, Coleman said.
Several other students gathered around the two to watch the fight. The body slam and punch was captured on a video that police and prosecutors seized and used as evidence.
The defendant “had a terrible reaction to a terrible word,” Coleman said.
The defendant has no prior record and is a member of the South Pointe football team, Coleman said.
The team suspended the defendant from some games in the 2018 season after he was suspended from school in April for seven days, Coleman said.
Football coaches with South Pointe submitted a letter to the court saying the defendant is fine young man and the team has disciplined him, testimony showed.
The victim suffered a concussion and spinal injury, but will return to school this year, his mother said after court.
Whitney Payne, 16th Circuit assistant solicitor, called the body slam and punch “violent acts” that produced “significant injury.”